Innovation Isn’t the Challenge – It’s “The System”

The world is constantly evolving and innovating – it’s sometimes hard to keep up as an individual.  A year or so ago I did not have apps on my cell phone to pay parking meters, but now it’s available in most places in Boston. I have friends who have children in little league and there are apps to update game times and locations or send notices about practice cancellations.

Health care is a business that is not immune to innovation, though some would argue the obstacles we’ve created for ourselves in health care are making this industry immune to innovation.  Lack of interoperability and access to meaningful data, complex provider contracting and reimbursement, fragmentation – “The System” has a way of fighting against progress, I’m afraid.

Yes, I used quotes around “The System”.  How does one define “The System”?  It is the legacy technology, processes, and thinking that has led to (and perpetuates) the fragmented delivery system we use today.

While working at a former job, I was struck by “The System” and a how it creates obstacles to every day innovation. There was a strong push for telemedicine visits in lieu of office visits.  The vendor said it would save money, but the employer wanted proof of its impact.  How did “The System” fight this?  At the time, there were no ways to code telemedicine visits – they only showed up as office visits in claim files – thus no way of measuring adoption or potential cost avoidance of the new tele-health programs.  “The System” – 1.  Innovation – 0.

How about this article?  “The System” is enough to make even the most forward-thinking, “can-do” entrepreneur re-think his or her entry into health care.

“The System” is a formidable opponent to innovation.  But it won’t win.  In fact, it can’t win.

I’m struck by the push for machine learning and artificial intelligence in health care and even more curious to see how the coming advances will change “The System”.  Some say it will occur fast. Others say 3-5 years or longer.  My guess is that the “fast” adoption will not be quite as noticeable or impactful as some are saying.  The real impact will be felt when innovations are used to re-create, re-invent and, in some cases, replace existing systems and processes.

In any case, I’m hopeful that the innovations coming in health care will not let “The System” get the best of them.  Innovation will find a way and will lead to a better future for all of us.

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